Friday’s Orlando Sentinel reports that senator and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has introduced legislation designed to support the Arecibo radio observatory in Puerto Rico. The giant radio telescope is in danger of closing because of budget pressures on the National Science Foundation’s astronomy programs, much to the consternation of astronomers who use the facility for a variety of applications, including tracking near Earth objects.
The Sentinel article plays up the timing of Clinton’s legislation, introduced last week: the commonwealth will hold a primary on June 1, one of the last of campaign. “Arecibo has been in peril for a while now,” a co-director of Barack Obama’s Puerto Rico campaign told the paper. “The timing is more than suspect.” Clinton does have a legitimate case in introducing the legislation, since the observatory is run by Cornell University in New York state, but her Senate office didn’t explain why the bill was introduced now.
One thing the Sentinel article missed, though, is that Clinton’s bill, S. 2862, is effectively word-for-word identical to HR 3737, a bill introduced last October by Luis Fortuño, the commonwealth’s non-voting representative, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA). (A press release issued by Clinton’s Senate office does note that a “similar” bill was introduced in the House, and includes a quote from Fortuño.) HR 3737 was assigned to the House Science and Technology Committee, which has not acted on the bill; the Senate, interestingly, sent S. 2862 to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and not the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee.